If the media were your sole source of information you could be forgiven for thinking Christians universally favour private schools over public schools. Yet, it’s a fact that many Christians send their children to public schools and are quite happy with the education they receive there. So, what’s the other side of the story? Is it just the cheaper fees? Maybe so. But beyond such pragmatism I would also like to advance some RELIGIOUS arguments for supporting public school systems in Australia and beyond. What’s more, I am going to deliberately go for a right-of-centre angle as I go about it, given that’s where I see the shift in awareness most needs to happen.
1/ Islamic integration
Everywhere I go I hear conservative Christians expressing fears about Muslims. Fears that they’re taking over, that they seek to impose Sharia Law locally, that they live in enclaves and resist integration, that Muslim schools could be potential to breading grounds future terrorists. Now, let us suppose for the moment that these fears are well founded and not exaggerated in the slightest (ignoring for a bit the ample evidence that a Muslim takeover is outrageously unlikely in the Australian context), is the Christian retreat into private schools and home schooling likely to solve the integration problem or exacerbate it? Think about it. What could be a greater argument for the legitimacy of Muslim private schools than a plethora of Christian private schools (given, after all, that we live in a pluralistic democracy where discriminatory policy is illegal)? What could encourage Muslim enclaving more than Christian attacks on the public school system (given, after all, that this undermines the prime alternative to private Muslim education)? It’s time more Christians woke up to this, put their money where their mouth is regarding integration and support public schools more vocally.
2/ SRE support
Many have noted how the success of Christian discount bookstores like Koorong have had an extremely negative impact on the availability of quality Christian books in secular bookstores. Quite simply, secular bookstores can no longer afford to stock anything other than the most outrageously liberal books that evangelical bookstores would never compete with them over. Should we not stop to consider then, if recent challenges to Special Religious Education (SRE) in private schools and the exodus of evangelical Christians to private schooling might not be, you know, just a wee bit related as well? Why, after all, should schools in highly multicultural and multireligious suburbs give preference to Christian religious education when the most committed Christian families are exiting? Wouldn’t the best way to ensure the continuence of SRE be for Christian families to continue using the service?
3/ Life preparation
Finally, when do you think would be the best time to expose your kids to secular thought? When you have maximum influence over them or when you have minimum influence over them? This protecting kids from state schools so that they won’t be taught evolution, this bubbling till university, this is a high risk strategy for conservatives in my view. You can’t bubble your kids forever. What, save the culture shock for when you’re least able to disciple them??? How’s that smart? The sooner they engage with the world they live in the better. Training for faithfulness in a faithless world is something we need to start early, while they are still in school.